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At last, MLB is officially allowing games to be suspended at any point

No more waiting around for the game to become “official.”

Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports

For at least a century, MLB tickets have had “rain checks” — the part of the ticket that says you can get a refund (or exchange for equal value) if the game doesn’t reach five completed innings (or 4½ if the home team is ahead):

“If less than 5 innings (or 4½ innings if the Cubs are ahead) are played on this date, this coupon may be redeemed for cash, or exchanged for any ticket of this same price, for a regular season game thereafter, if available. No exchanges or refunds except as above.” — Wording on Cubs rain check from the late 1960s

The 2022 policy is a bit different (not to mention longer!):

Should the Event not be played or otherwise completed, this ticket will admit the Holder on the date or dates on which such Event is rescheduled or resumed, as may be announced in the sole discretion of the Cubs. No part of the purchase price will be refunded by reason of the failure of the Holder to use this ticket on such rescheduled or resumed date or dates.

REFUND POLICY FOR NON-OCCURRING EVENTS

In the event that the Event for which this ticket is issued does not occur, a refund or credit will be issued according to the refund policy available at www.cubs.com.

There’s no mention anywhere on that link of that “less than 5 innings” rule from decades ago.

In practice, what all of this has led to in recent years is teams going to ridiculous lengths to get to that five-inning mark so the game could be “official,” even during torrential downpours. In May 2019, for example, the White Sox played a few innings against the Royals when there was heavy rain falling and a severe thunderstorm warning having been issued. I wrote about this at the time and you should re-read that article because the videos within show how ridiculous that was. Less than a week later, the Cubs and Cardinals had a game stopped an inning short of being official and waited three and a half hours before resuming and finishing at 12:57 a.m. — this when they had a 1:15 p.m. game scheduled the next day. That’s just inconsiderate to players and fans.

I wrote about this at the time and concluded, regarding “rain checks”:

Perhaps you’ll say, “Al, in your scenario the original ticket holder doesn’t get to see an official game.” My response to that: Most of the fans at Saturday’s game, which had an announced tickets sold total of 46,297, left before the resumption of the game anyway and so they didn’t see an official game by their own choice. Further, it’s very likely that a significant portion of Saturday’s crowd also attended Sunday’s game, either Cardinals season-ticket holders or Cubs fans who traveled to St. Louis for the weekend. This type of fandom is far different from the way things were decades ago when the “rain check” language was first put on tickets. Most teams had very few season-ticket holders until after World War II and the number of Cubs fans you’d have found in St. Louis (or any other road city, for that matter) for games in that era could probably be counted in the dozens instead of the thousands.

During the 2020 and 2021 seasons, with MLB under various COVID-19 protocols, the suspended game rule was amended to allow a game to be suspended at any point. In fact, one game in April 2021 between the Mets and Marlins was suspended after just nine pitches — it probably shouldn’t have started at all, but did, and it was completed in August. Here’s what I wrote about it at the time — in fact, current Cub Marcus Stroman was the Mets starter that April 2021 day.

All of that is a somewhat long-winded introduction to the point of this article, which is to tell you that the 2020-21 suspended game rule has been made a permanent part of the CBA between MLB and the MLB Players Association.

This is something I’ve been advocating for quite some time and I am pleased MLB has adopted this as a rule. Thus, we should (hopefully) see no more Cubs games forced to play through moderate rain just to “get the game in.” The only reason to do so would be on the last day that a team comes to Wrigley Field in a particular season. In that case, of course you try to get the game in. Otherwise — just suspend it and finish it the next day.

There is one case where a game could be suspended even if it’s the last visit by a team to a city, and that is if those two teams would meet again in the visiting team’s home. For example, this year the Cubs and Reds will play three games at Wrigley September 30 and October 1 and 2. Those were originally the last three games of the 2021 season, but with the games rescheduled as a result of the lockout, the Cubs will then travel to Cincinnati October 3-4-5. If, for example, it was raining on October 2 and weather conditions were deteriorating — just suspend it and finish it in Cincinnati, with the Cubs batting last for the completion.

This change, hopefully, will result in fewer games — or maybe none! — played in awful weather conditions, which are bad for both players (injury risk) and fans.

Kudos to MLB for this rule change.